‘Peanuts’ Gang Returns, Appeals to Original Audience with Nostalgia, Misses Children

“The Peanuts Movie” is an endearing throwback to Charles Schultz’s original cartoon strip and movies, but may not translate well to younger audiences.

The film conjures up nostalgia in those who grew up watching the Peanuts, whether 50 years ago or 20. None of the material covered in the film was particularly new. If you have seen any Peanuts films or read the comic strips, you will recognize several iconic scenes in the new film. No new information really surfaces, but that wasn’t really the point.

The fact that the film stays true to the original is one of its triumphs. There was no modernization in the film. You are still watching Charlie Brown and his friends grow up in the post-WWII era, and those themes are really emphasized. These values aren’t something you see in many children’s films today. References to the “Great War” and fighter pilot scenes will be lost on younger audiences.

The humor in the Peanuts has always been somewhat adult, even though children are the sole characters. Charlie Brown’s anxieties are comparable to what many adults experience, even if they are in the context of playground politics. The realization that even the best of intentions and planning can result in massive failure may seem like a depressing theme for a children’s movie, but it is something that adults look back on with humor.

There are several lines in the film, as in the comics, that can only be understood by adults. This isn’t to say that children can’t enjoy the movie. The children in the film are still children, and even after 50 years, being a kid hasn’t changed much.

Most children understand the feeling of being less popular or having a crush on someone who doesn’t know you exist. There is also an element of slapstick comedy, which kids love in any context. Watching someone fall on their face never gets old.

The film was true to the original, but the animation was very different. Instead of illustrations, Charlie Brown and his friends are rendered in computer animation, but the details of the materials used was incredible. The hyper-realism of the materials contrasted sharply with the disproportionate nature of the Peanuts universe.

The movements of the characters, however, were nearly identical to the older films. It was a bit disconcerting to see Claymation-looking characters move like illustrated characters. In other words, it was slightly jerky and not at all realistic. This was hard to get used to at first, because this type of animation usually moves fluidly and more like a three-dimensional object.

The music was the only disappointing thing in the film, but this may just be a product of nostalgia. Instead of the trademark piano music featured in the original films, the music in this film was much more modern. In fact, the music was the only modern part of the movie, so it felt a little disconnected. The music also didn’t seem to match the mood of the movie; dance music isn’t exactly what you imagine of when you think “Peanuts.”

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this film. I was afraid that too much would be different, because remakes tend to pander to “current” audiences. I think it was a good call to keep the film as close to the original as possible, even if you lose younger audiences, older viewers will almost certainly feel the tug of nostalgia and will hopefully share it with family for years to come.

This article originally appeared in the Nov. 18, 2015 print edition of The Echo. 

image via spinoff.comicbookresources.com

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